Life never works out quite how we expect it to, yet so many of us still try to control the people and situations around us. According to author John Purkiss, the key to happiness lies in actually embracing life's changes and learning to let go. Here are his practical tips on leaping into the unknown...
Like many people, I grew up with the idea that if you’re intelligent and hardworking, you’ll have a great life. But it didn’t work out that way – at least at first.
I worked really hard at school, got into Cambridge, worked hard at my job for three years, and won first prize at business school. I was then diagnosed with clinical depression, which nearly killed me.
Looking back, suicidal depression at the age of 26 was a blessing! It was the beginning of the destruction of the ego – the illusion that I was separate from everyone and everything. The experience was so painful that it made me look for another way to live.
Somewhere or other I read a statement by an Indian guru who said that spiritual progress was all about letting go, not acquiring. Like most people, I’d been conditioned from an early age to acquire knowledge, qualifications, experience, money, relationships and a place to live. Now it was time to let go of the things that were holding me back.
We all need to let go if we want to be happy and fulfil our potential. We’re all stuck in one or more of the following areas: our health, our love lives, our careers and money. It can feel very frustrating. The good news is that the more we let go, the more everything flows. Our lives change rapidly for the better.
Here are six steps to help you get started:
Let thoughts come and go. Don’t judge them or engage with them. That will only cause mental turmoil. Just allow them to come and go. You aren’t those thoughts. You’re consciousness, which notices the thoughts as they appear and disappear.
Let go of labels. There’s no need to label people or situations. Just look closely at whatever’s in front of you. Be curious and open-minded. You’ll start to see everything in a new way.
Let go of judgements. Many of us perpetually judge whatever’s happening as right or wrong. It creates lots of mental turmoil. If you give yourself a break from judging, you’ll find yourself tuning in to what’s actually happening. Then you’ll be able to do something constructive about it.
Let go of stories. Life is a series of unrelated events, which our minds connect up to create stories. Most of these stories are negative such as ‘This keeps happening to me’, ‘People are so rude’ and ‘All politicians are liars’. Stories make us feel powerless. Once we let go of them, we feel much more positive. We start taking action that gets results.
Let go of expectations. Most of us have expectations about how people should behave and how things should be. Again, the mind has made the whole thing up. Then we suffer when life doesn’t fit our expectations. It’s best if we let go of them. We can still tell people what we want them to do. If they don’t do it, we can find another solution. In the meantime, it’s best to drop our expectations.
Let go completely. This is the final step, described in the book. I’m going to include it here, so you see how powerful letting go can be if you go the whole way. I invite you to drop everything, including labels, judgements, stories, expectations – even your goals and desires. It helps if you stand up and shake your body. Shake everything off. This is sometimes called surrender. You drop everything and let go. If you do this, your intuition will tell you what to do. That’s how I live these days. I surrender and follow my intuition. I only analyse when I need to. The rest of the time I let go and enjoy life. Things happen more quickly and smoothly than before. It’s a much more fulfilling way to live.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t have goals or things you want to happen in your life. I’m saying that – if we let go of all the junk we’re carrying around in our heads – things happen much more easily. The more we let go, the more easily everything flows.
* The Power of Letting Go: How to drop everything that’s holding you back by John Purkiss, published by Aster, £12.99*